Myanmar protesters block aid shipment to Rohingya Muslims

Myanmar protesters block aid shipment to Rohingya Muslims
Police in Myanmar were forced to fire warning shots to disperse an armed crowd that attempted to prevent a shipment of aid from reaching displaced Rohingya Muslims in the northern state of Rakhine.

Hundreds of protesters attempted to prevent humanitarian workers from loading 50 tons (metric) of aid onto a boat in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, Wednesday evening.

Almost 200 police were called in to contain the crowd who were armed with sticks, metal bars and petrol bombs which they threw at police. Eight people were arrested in the clashes, reports ABC News citing the Myanmar government.

More than 400,000 people have been displaced by violence in northern Myanmar which began after insurgent attacks on August 25 sparked a military backlash. Around 400 people, mostly insurgents, have been killed so far in the fighting.

There has been widespread condemnation of the Myanmar military and government amid accusations of crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing.

"There has been much concern around the world with regard to the situation in Rakhine. It is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abnegate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence," State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said in a statement.

"I understand that many of our friends throughout the world are concerned by reports of villages being burnt and of hordes of refugees fleeing. As I said earlier, there have been no conflicts since September 5 and no clearance operations."

“People thought the aid was only for the Bengalis,” secretary of the state government, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters, using a pejorative term that Rohingya find offensive.

The Rakhine state denies the Rohingya citizenship, alleging they are instead illegal immigrants. It does not consider them one of the country’s officially designated national races. Roughly 40 percent of the Rohingya population living in Rakhine State has fled to Bangladesh since the recent outbreak of violence began.